Q&A – Jonathan Burton: Why Health Shield is launching a health and wellbeing proposition

Health Shield is planning to step out of its traditional territory of cash plans with a launch into the health and wellbeing space. Chief executive Jonathan Burton tells John Greenwood why

Why is Health Shield entering the health and wellbeing space?

“The majority of employers haven’t got an overall health and wellbeing strategy but are interested in developing one. They are seeing a direct correlation between happy workers and productivity. So we are in the process of developing a product to bring this together.”

What will your new proposition look like?

“We are currently in the process of analysing research we have just done on what the proposition needs, but it will be things that address work/life balance, financial wellbeing of staff, health and support for these. We are detecting a lot of interest from employers in services to tackle mental health issues.

“The proposition will include the provision of a mix of apps, on site and close to site visits, EAPs, cognitive behavioural therapy services, and we have also bought a health screening company which will form part of the proposition. The proposition will help employers improve their communication of what they offer and deliver a proper integrated health and wellbeing strategy.”

Health screenings have typically been targeted at senior staff. Will this also be your strategy?

“Health Shield’s vision is to improve the health and wellbeing of as many people as possible. Our acquisition of specialist workplace health screening provider Prevent plc at the start of this year allows us to further deliver our vision. Our new proposition will help extend the reach of health screening to more employers and their workforce. This comes in addition to the raft of health and wellbeing benefits recently launched, all carefully designed to help ensure happy, healthy and engaged staff.”

When will you be bringing your new proposition to market?

“Health Shield plans to launch its new proposition in the third quarter of 2017.”

You have increased your cash plan membership and premium income for 13 consecutive years, reflecting an increase in take up of corporate-paid cash plans across the board over the last decade, while group PMI take-up has been flat. Why is that?

“The 2017 Willis Towers Watson Employee Benefits & Wellbeing Index found that health cash plans have leapfrogged life and health insurance to become the second most popular employee benefit in the UK behind contributory pensions. 12 per cent of workers valued health cash plans the most — two thirds of who earn less than the national average salary. Health screening appeared in fourth place, garnering 9 per cent of the votes.

“Notwithstanding the corporate need that helps to address absence management issues, there is also a clear product need amongst the general public. The latest Mintel survey revealed that 46 per cent of people were worried about the cost of everyday health services, in part driven by ongoing fiscal pressure on public healthcare provision and a slowdown in funding.”

Are intermediaries promoting cash plans more these days?

“The growth we are seeing in the cash plan sector is in part down to the fact that employers are getting a better understanding of the proposition. This is in part because brokers and consultants are talking to them about cash plans more, which is contributing to the increased uptake from employers.”